• Alec Liebsch

NBA Trade Deadline Report Cards

After the boatload of player movement this past summer, it was thought to be unlikely that many seismic moves would take place at the trade deadline.

Well, we thought wrong. The contenders made typical moves to bolster their support cast, but even some non-contenders took swings that few saw coming.

Thanks to all the spending that was done this past summer, few teams have salary cap space heading into the summer of 2020. After this week, those few dwindled down even more.

In chronological order, let’s take a look at all the moves of substance, and how the teams involved did with their maneuvers.

The Clint Capela four-way

It was well-documented that the Houston Rockets wanted Robert Covington, and it was also clear that they wanted to move Clint Capela. Houston’s front office has been at the forefront of quite a few radical moves this century, and swapping their only high-usage big for another wing certainly does that.

In full the Rockets sent out Capela and their 2020 first round pick, and got Covington, Jordan Bell and the Warriors’ 2024 second round pick (via Atlanta). Bell was later sent to Memphis for Bruno Caboclo, because as Daryl Morey (probably) said on Thursday, “f**k a big man.”

By trading the Nets’ first round pick (top-14 protected) and Evan Turner to Minnesota, and that second rounder to Houston, the Hawks acquired Clint Capela and Nene. They’ve been looking for a rim-running, rim-protecting five for quite some time, even though John Collins does similar things offensively.

Covington, a quintessential 3-and-D wing, helps contenders now more than he’d help Minnesota by the time they’re ready to win. The Wolves not only got the Nets pick from Atlanta, but also Houston’s 2020 first round pick, which they used to add Denver to the party.

The Nuggets’ asset cupboard has been full for a while. This season it started to overflow thanks to Michael Porter Jr.’s emergence. They had little room for either Malik Beasley or Juancho Hernangomez, two pending restricted free agents.

This worked in Minnesota’s favor, as it used that Houston pick to acquire Beasley, Hernangomez and Jarred Vanderbilt. To make the money work, the Nuggets took back Gerald Green (and the cash they’ll need to waive him), Keita Bates-Diop, Shabazz Napier (who they later flipped for Jordan McRae), and Noah Vonleh.

This was a crazy way to kick off the hours leading up to the deadline. Houston gets to fully lean into the James Harden, Russell Westbrook and shooters lineup. Denver gets the value it could for two guys it couldn’t use, although that value wasn’t much.

Minnesota gets assets and players in a world when that didn’t seem possible. Atlanta gets a quality center of the archetype it’s been looking for on a reasonable contract, and doesn’t give up much to do so.

For the Rockets, this trade gets a B+. Covington helps them considerably, but in terms of value they overpaid. Their model can do better against traditional lineups than TNT’s crew led you to believe on Thursday night. The Rockets will win a lot of games, and may shift the balance of power in the West with this move. But they definitely overpaid.

The Timberwolves get an A- for this one. Covington was going to be past his prime by the time Minnesota got competitive; it made sense to move on. Getting a mid-tier first rounder this year, plus at least two rotation youngsters (barring restricted free agency) is a win for a team that seemed to be stuck in salary cap purgatory for a bit.

The Hawks get a B+. Capela is a good young player, and they didn’t give up much for him, but his offensive strengths seem to overlap with Collins’. The latter is taking 3.7 threes per game and making them at a respectable 35.8% clip, so maybe the fit isn’t too clunky. But Capela never takes them. We’ll see how the two coexist down the stretch and into next season. If nothing else, he fortifies their formerly porous rim defense.

Denver gets a C+. They clearly didn’t have much leverage to sell off Beasley or Hernangomez, but they really lost out here. Beasley is a good rotation player who will fit well in Minnesota. Hernangomez is a bit of a tweener whose game might not be complete yet. This is the downside of holding onto assets too long.

Hawks get Dewayne Dedmon back

Apparently Capela wasn’t enough center help, as Atlanta also acquired Dewayne Dedmon just months after letting him go in free agency. The Kings were looking to get off his contract here, attaching two second-rounders (one in 2020 and one in 2021) to his deal to got it done.

Jabari Parker, who has a $6.5 million player option next season, and Alex Len, an unrestricted free agent this summer, went the other way to make the money work.

The Sacramento Kings continue to perplex me. To sign him this summer, when they most certainly didn’t need a big man, and then give up two second round picks just to get rid of him is straight malpractice. In addition, they only had to swallow that deal for one more season; he’s guaranteed just $1 million in 2021-22. Grade: D.

Atlanta gets two seconds that will likely be good, but there is an expense: cap space. The Hawks were slated for nearly two max slots this summer, and in two days it almost vanished. Adding Capela was one thing, since he’s a good player on a reasonable deal. But with the addition of Dedmon, they will now be allocating $29.3 million next season to a position the front office barely paid attention to beforehand. Grade: B.

Philadelphia 76ers add some bench flare

The 76ers had high expectations coming into the season, and to say they haven’t met them would be a nice PR stunt. They’ve been a full-on disappointment, with a lack of offensive cohesion and far too many off nights.

Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III hope to change that. The Sixers traded three second round picks to Golden State for these two: Dallas’ in 2020, Denver’s in 2021 and Toronto’s in 2022.

Burks was having a career year with the Warriors, averaging 16.1 points per game on respectable efficiency. Long known as a scorer who couldn’t get minutes, his flare with the ball will be welcomed in Philly.

Robinson is a good shooter who will defend capably on the wing. He has hit 39.6% of his threes since 2015 (when eliminating the outlier season in Detroit), and was often tasked with guarding the best perimeter player the Warriors went up against.

Philly gets a B+ for filling needs at a low cost, and Golden State gets a B+ for capitalizing on the value of two vet minimum signings.

Miami Heat get Andre Iguodala

When Pat Riley sees a crack in the window, he punches his fist through it. Andre Iguodala wanted no parts of the Memphis Grizzlies this season, which is fair but led to quite the scuffle with Memphis’ franchise player.

Regardless, the Heat pounced on the opportunity to add him. It cost them Justise Winslow, but they also got off Dion Waiters’ albatross contract. James Johnson also went to Memphis, while Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill were sent to South Beach. Minnesota joined the party late, taking Johnson from Memphis and sending Gorgui Dieng back.

Iguodala has reportedly agreed to a “one-plus-one” deal with the Heat, where he will make $15 million next season and the Heat will have a team option on him in 2021-22. The summer of 2021 is vital for Miami, as it will have significant cap space to go after stars such as Giannis Antentokoumnpo, Paul George (player option) and Kawhi Leonard (player option). Crowder gives them another versatile body on defense who won’t mess with the flow of the offense.

Memphis gets a nice player in Winslow. He can run the offense from an unorthodox position while also defending whoever you want him to. The cost of getting him, though, was tying $30 million in Dieng and Waiters next season. Those salaries can be used to facilitate more trades next season, but they also could have absorbed cap space in salary dumps this summer to get even more assets. Grade: B.

The Heat think they have a shot at winning the East, and there’s good reason to believe that. The Bucks are the only team demonstrably better than them right now, and it’s not crazy to think that juggernaut could have matchup issues in the playoffs. Iguodala may be 35 years old, but he just had a nice few months to recover for the playoff push. The issue with his addition is the money; is he really worth $15 million right now? Also, using Winslow as a sweetener is quite creative. This all comes down to how much Iguodala has left in the tank. Grade: B+.

(Minnesota doesn’t need a grade; they moved a guy with $17 million guaranteed for a guy who has a player option for $16 million, which is essentially guaranteed).

Warriors and Wolves finish the D’Angelo Russell swap

A deal that was thought to be dead in the water revived itself pretty late. With just over an hour to go until the deadline Thursday, the Timberwolves finally got the point guard they’ve been longing for: D’Angelo Russell.

The Warriors tried to make it seem like they weren’t moving him unless it was for a good price. The holdup was surrounding Minnesota’s 2020 first round pick, which ended up staying with the Timberwolves. Instead, Minny’s 2021 first will go to Golden State (top-3 protected), and roll over as unprotected in 2022.

To make the money work, only one player could go Golden State’s way: Andrew Wiggins. The former No. 1 overall pick has gotten a lot of flak for his shortcomings as an NBA player, and the Warriors are hoping to rewrite that narrative. If he can fit into a role next to Golden State’s stars, he fills a glaring need for them.

Speaking of big needs, the Wolves finally have a point guard. But is Russell really the guy? Sure he’s Towns’ friend and can score in bunches, but can he be the lead ball-handler on a winning team? Even when he was an All-Star for Brooklyn last season (which is not really an All-Star, considering how weak the East is), he sometimes didn’t even close games for the Nets. Why you ask? He was too bad of a defender for Brooklyn to risk it.

He was just as bad a stopper for the Warriors, and their coaching staff was noticeably frustrated by it, per The Athletic’s Ethan Strauss. In addition, Zach Lowe reported on his podcast with Bobby Marks that the Timberwolves’ offer was the best Golden State could do.

The pick Golden State got is significant. If it rolls over to 2022, it may come in the year of the “double draft” when high school players will be allowed to declare for the draft again. It’s not likely that Minnesota will be a bottom feeder again next season, but regardless that pick will be valuable in the Warriors’ championship push next season, especially if the lottery works in their favor this May.

Minnesota gets its point guard to pair with Towns while getting off the Wiggins contract. Suddenly, they have a core again. But Wiggins is only one year older than Russell, and the on-court fit between these two may not be as great as people think. Russell and Towns are well-documented as bad defenders, and not with small sample sizes either. Maybe they can buy into each other on that end, and the Wolves’ army of role playing wings can do the dirty work. But that remains to be seen. Grade: B-.

The Warriors got what they could for DLo. Wiggins is worse, and he has a lot of work to do to become a good role player for Golden State, but at least he has the tools to be plus defender. Russell probably won’t ever become league-average on that end. If the Warriors can get Wiggins to buy in as a shooter, cutter and defender, this trade is a win. For now, this seems like a reshuffling of unwanted cards for both sides. Grade: B-.

Andre Drummond to the Cavs

Easily the most surprising move of the season, Andre Drummond goes to a place already filled with bigs. The price to acquire him was even more shocking: a 2023 second round pick (worse of Cleveland’s or Golden State’s).

Drummond himself moving is not a shock, as he has a player option for $28.8 million next season and the Pistons were unlikely to pay his next contract. But not only is he going to Cleveland, who has been trying to get off Kevin Love, but he also only cost a future second rounder to acquire.

Solely on name value you’d think Drummond would garner more than that. After all, he’s averaging 17.8 points and a career-high 15.8 rebounds currently. But few teams have cap space this summer, especially after all the moves Atlanta and Memphis made, so his player option likely perturbed almost everyone, even those who needed a center.

Cleveland buys low on a productive center who can roll hard for its featured guards, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. In addition, Kevin Love has a veteran running mate to make the Cavs a palatable basketball team. As long as he doesn’t control the offense, he should be a fine fit on that end. As for the defense...we’ll see.

Clippers get Marcus Morris

Both Los Angeles teams were in a bidding war for the New York Knicks forward. Marcus Morris was having a career year as the Garden Protector, averaging 19.6 points and 5.4 rebounds on 58.2% True Shooting.

His $15 million salary was hard to match for the Lakers, as their only meaningful salaries besides DeMarcus Cousins are all valuable rotation players. The Clippers used Maurice Harkless, whom they incurred as a salary dump over the summer, Jerome Robinson their 2020 first round pick, swap rights for their 2021 first round pick (top-4 protected), and Detroit’s 2021 second round pick to acquire the beefy forward. Robinson, a second-year guard out of Boston College, was rerouted to Washington in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, whom the Clippers then waived.

The Clippers are all-in on 2020, no doubt about it. That 2020 first was the last big asset they had to deal, and they used it accordingly to acquire a guy who can play next to either Paul George or Kawhi Leonard. It’s not inconceivable to have all three share the floor together; Harkless started a lot of games at the four next to those two. He will provide a scoring and shooting flare to the Clippers’ rotation, and arguably puts them over the top as favorites out of the West. Grade: A-.

The Knicks actually did something smart! They made the most of Morris’ value, getting a pick and a swap for a guy on an expiring deal. New York wanted to retain him past 2020, but it’s not like that idea’s out of the question now either. Maximizing what you don’t need for something you want is a good step for the Knicks. B+.

(All trades reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and/or The Athletic's Shams Charania)